BANGKOK, Aug 1 – Thailand’s rice exports in the first two quarters dropped by 8.4 per cent and the prospects in the second half of the year remain bleak, according to a leading rice trader.
Chookiat Opaswong, honorary chairman of the Thai Rice Exporters Association, said Thailand exported only 2.9 million tonnes of rice, worth Bt61.988 billion, in January-June, a 7.8 per cent decline year-on-year.
The tough competition in the rice market was intensified by the global economic downturn, he said.
He cited continuous rice imports by China, the government’s release of rice from its stockpiles into the market, government-to-government deals with rice importing countries and the reduction of rice pledging prices as the positive factors for the domestic rice market.
But there are challenges, Mr Chookiat said, particularly the mass releases of rice from Vietnam and India into the global market while the prices of Thai rice are higher than Thailand’s competitors.
In the long run, old and new rice exporters are concentrating on boosting their exports and penetrating the high-quality rice markets which offer better prices, he said.
The US Department of Agriculture has predicted a reduction in global rice trade by 4 per cent, or at 37.5 million tonnes, lower than last year’s 39 million tonnes.
Thailand’s rank in the global export market is slipping to third position, with an export volume of seven million tonnes, lower than India at nine million tonnes and Vietnam at 7.4 million tonnes.
This year’s total rice exports are predicted at 6.5 million tonnes despite the Commerce Ministry’s target at 8.5 million tonnes, he said.
Mr Chookiat said this year’s global rice market will expand only slightly, while current rice stocks in Thailand and India are 17 million tonnes and 30 million tonnes respectively.
The five top importers of Thai rice are Iraq at 410,000 tonnes, Benin at 330,000 tonnes, the US at 180,000 tonnes, Japan at 170,000 tonnes and Cote d’Ivoire at 150,000 tonnes.